Reggie Watts Interview
Tuesday May 19, 2009·
Loopy tunesmith and laughman Reggie Watts will combine his passions for music and comedy when he returns to Brisbane this week, after a successful stint here in February. You should expect elements of beatboxing, poetry, live vocal looping and physical theatre among a highly improvised show that's won Watts fans across the world. He joins FourThousand from his Sydney hotel room.
Reggie: Check 1-2! Hi!
R: Hey, whasuuuup?
A: Hey Reggie, this is Andrew!
R: [robot voice] How are you doing, Andrew?
A: I'm good dude, how are you?
R: [normal voice] I'm doing alright.
A: Do you have a power animal?
R: Do I have a power animal?
A: Yeah. An animal you think of in tough times, to get you through.
R: I usually think of… wolves.
A: A wolf?
R: Yeah. My power wolf.
A: That's cool. Mine's a dolphin.
R: Oh, really? Dolphins are awesome!
A: Yeah! They remind me of freedom, and I can just escape to that world and pretend I'm swimming in the ocean with my dolphin friends.
R: And they're intelligent.
A: Yeah, exactly! And I've heard they really like sex.
R: They do like sex. They're totally.. they're awesome. They're the closest to 'us' in the sea.
A: When someone meets you for the first time, how do you describe yourself?
A: Or do you just assume that everyone knows who you are, instantly, because you're a mega-celebrity?
R: No, no! That would be horrible to constantly assume that. “Don't you know who I am?!” I don't know, I guess I call myself an abstract musical comedian.
A: So when you tell people you're a comedian, do they ask you to tell them a joke?
R: Sometimes, yeah.
A: Does it shit you to tears?
R: Not really. I either tell them that I don't do jokes, or I just make up a really stupid joke that doesn't make any sense. And they'll be like “wow, I shouldn't have asked that.”
A: “This guy's not funny at all!”
R: “I don't get it, how does he make a living?”
A: I was watching the promo video on the Zero Hour site, where you explain that you investigate the absurd side of comedy. Does that come easily to you?
R: I think so. It's the way I've always seen life. I've always seen things as silly. Goofy. Even death, at times, can be goofy.
A: I watched that CollegeHumor video of yours [“What About Blowjobs?”], which deals with a pretty humorous topic in a pretty serious way. Or at least it appears to be serious. Would you consider that video to be absurdist humour too, because it takes a non-serious topic into a serious context?
R: Absolutely, yeah. It's all about context and contrast. You take something serious and you expose how it's actually absurd if you look at it through a different lens.
A: From what I've seen, your act uses a lot of swearing. Does that come easily, too?
R: I like swearing, but I like using it because it really gets the idea across. Or if you overuse it, then it becomes ridiculous. The audience wonders when it's going to stop. It's a fun thing to disarm people with, or to shock them into understanding that it's not shocking. It's just stupid.
A: People get offended by certain words, and then if you overuse them to the point of absurdity, that says to people, “well, they're just words, why are you getting so pissed off?”
R: Yeah, you take the power away from it. And then sometimes people get angry because of that! “Oh, now we can't complain about it, because it doesn't mean anything!” Well, I'm sorry!
A: “I'm sorry for being so clever!”
R: Yeah. “You should have thought of it first!”
A: If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?
R: If I knew I was going to die tomorrow.. (speaks slowly) I would probably get.. like, a bunch of heroin, and do that, and then just talk to people on beaches, and have girls come over. Or something like that. (laughs) And have someone record it all, and then have someone remix it later.
A: If you couldn't rock an afro, which hairstyle would you have?
R: I would probably do a mohawk. Some kind of weird, shaved-on-one side, spiky-on-the-other future punk-rock look.
A: A giant mohawk? Like three feet high?
R: Not quite a straight mohawk. It'd have to be something a little weird.
A: Are you a procrastinator?
A: How do you deal with it?
R: I hate it, sometimes. I just end up getting in trouble, being late, or not completing something.
A: Have you gotten better?
R: Yeah. It's an ongoing battle with myself. The best way to deal with it is to just be on time. Keeping a timely manner is the best way to avoid it, but it's hard for me, because I like waiting until the last minute. It's just my personality.
A: Did you go to university?
R: I went to Cornish College Of The Arts in Seattle, Washington, for about two and a half years. I studied Jazz Voice.
A: Did you leave your assignments until the last day?
R: Of course. Always. Sometimes I didn't even do 'em.
A: You procrastinated so hard that you didn't hand it in.
R: Exactly. Which then moves beyond procrastination..
A: Into, what would you call it.. failure?
R: Yes, failure. (laughs)
A: When you go and see a show, what do you like to see?
R: I like to see anything that's really good. It can be serious, humorous, weird; dance, poetry, anything really, as long as it's coming from a place of mastery. Of clear vision, or clear voice. That's all that matters to me. Sometimes an idea isn't fully developed, but it's still great.
A: Is your show an attempt to capture that clear voice?
R: Kind of. The clear voice is the unclear voice in my show, but it's a form of that, for sure. In my own way.
A: Okay, last question. What do you fear?
R: I guess I fear irrelevance, and dying from some stupid health condition.
A: In what kind of way do you want to die?
R: I don't want to die at all, but I don't know if that's possible yet. (laughs) But along the way, I want to do the best to treat myself well, and limit the possibilities of death happening early.
A: Awesome, great outlook. Thanks for your time, Reggie.
R: Thank you! Goodbye, sir.